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Cinnamon Sugar Pastry Scrolls

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I’ve been baking with yeast or sourdough for so long that I’m in danger of forgetting that there are some pretty nice pastries to be made just using good old all purpose flour!

So here’s a recipe from the vault for deliciously soft and tender scrolls, with a cinnamon sugar filling, made with plain or all purpose flour. You can knock these up in half an hour – and doesn’t that beat all that time spent proving a batch of yeast based cinnamon pastries!

Of course you can fill these with a whole lot of different toppings too – dried fruit, chocolate or chopped nuts to name a few.

Ingredients

Dough
2 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 1/4 cups thickened cream

Filling
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/8 cup caster sugar and 1/8 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Icing
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon milk

Extra caster sugar and cinnamon for dusting

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C non fan forced, 160 degrees C fan forced.
Place flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the cream until just combined. If the dough is a little dry, add a little more cream carefully.

Lightly flour a board and turn the mixture onto the board.
Knead the dough on the floured surface until only just incorporated.
Roll the dough into a large rectangle.

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Combine sugars and cinnamon in a small bowl. Brush the dough rectangle with melted butter.
Sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the dough.

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Roll the dough from the longest side to form a scroll. Cut into 10 fat slices or 16 smaller slices slices.

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Place slices onto a baking tray.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden (the bigger the slices, the longer the cooking time).
Place on a wire rack and dust with the additional cinnamon and sugar while still hot.
Make the icing by mixing the icing sugar and the milk in a small bowl.
Pour the icing over the scrolls.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Will keep for a couple of days but best eaten on the day or soon thereafter!

Rosemary, Olive Oil and Orange Cake

Cakes where orange or lemon are predominant flavours are an important part of a baker’s repertoire. They make wonderful afternoon tea cakes and can be dressed up for dessert.

This is a lovely cake from Middle Eastern inspired cook Yotam Ottolenghi. I’m revisiting it in autumn in Sydney, as we are enjoying long warm days, perfect for cake and coffee in the sunshine!

The cake itself is flavoured with rosemary, and the orange and lemon icing gives the cake a great citrus tang.

Although there are few steps to the recipe, it’s actually quite easy. You could leave out crystallising the rosemary sprigs to save time, but the sprigs are a nice aromatic touch plus they look great on the cake.

You could bake the cake in an ordinary tin, but if you have a bundt tin, make it in that, so the icing can drip down the centre of the cake.

Here is Ottolenghi’s recipe.

Ingredients

Cake
30g unsalted butter, softened, for greasing the tin
240g plain flour plus more to flour the tin
160 mls extra-virgin olive oil
120g caster sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (from about 1 1/2 oranges)
1 ½ tablespoons packed finely chopped rosemary leaves
2 large free-range eggs
130g sour cream
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Crystallised Rosemary
10 small rosemary sprigs, no more than 3 cms each in size
1 free range egg white, lightly whisked
2 teaspoons caster sugar

Orange Icing
1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
150g sifted icing sugar

Method

At least six hours before you plan to ice the cake, prepare the crystallised rosemary. Brush rosemary on all sides with a little of the egg white and then dip it in the sugar, so the needles are lightly coated on all sides. Set aside on a wire rack to dry. Repeat with remaining rosemary. *Note: You want small, decorative clusters of needles. The simplest way to do this is to pull the smaller, bottom-most clumps off of large sprigs, or trim off the very tops of several sprigs.

Heat the oven to 160 degrees C. Generously grease a 23cm bundt tin with half the butter and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Butter again, generously, and then flour it, tapping away the excess.

Put olive oil, caster sugar, orange zest and chopped rosemary leaves in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until combined, then add eggs, one at a time. Whisk for another minute, until thick, then add sour cream and mix until combined on low speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the whisk.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the olive oil mixture and mix until combined. Increase speed to high and whisk for one minute.

Scrape batter into the bundt pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake is cooked, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate.

To make the icing, in a small bowl whisk together orange juice, lemon juice and icing sugar until smooth. When the cake has cooled, drizzle the icing on top, allowing it to drip down the sides of the cake, then top with the crystallized rosemary and serve.

ANZAC Biscuits 2021

I love seasonal baking, and 25 April is ANZAC Day. ANZAC biscuits are traditionally baked and eaten around this date.

This day commemorates the contribution of Australian and New Zealand soldiers to World War One.

I’m quite pleased with this year’s biscuits. I have tweaked my normal recipe, which is based on the “original” ANZAC recipe from The Cook and the Curator, the cooking blog of Sydney Living Museums. I picked up a few good tips from Cloudy Kitchen’s ANZAC biscuit recipe.

The first of these tips was to brown the butter, to give more depth of flavour. To make the brown butter, you need to start of with a slightly bigger quantity of butter, to make up for the loss of volume when browning. I therefore adjusted the butter up in the ingredients section.

The second tip was to cook the biscuits at a lower temperature than I would normally use – this stops the biscuits spreading too much. The result is a plump biscuit, crisp around the edges and squidgy in the middle!

The third tip was to cook both trays at the same time in the oven, as the mixture changes consistency when left for a while before cooking.

So here are my “revised” 2021 ANZAC biscuits!

Ingredients

165g salted butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup brown sugar

Method

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Line 2 oven trays with baking paper.

Place the butter in a small saucepan and heat until melted. Once the butter is melted, cook for about 3-4 minutes, swirling the pan often. The butter will foam and turn a golden brown. Remove from the heat and put into a bowl to cool slightly.

Combine the melted butter and golden syrup in the same saucepan. Add the bicarbonate of soda and boiling water and whisk to combine. Remove from heat.

Mix the rolled oats, flour and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter/golden syrup mixture and stir until well combined.

Take tablespoons of mixture and make into balls. Place the balls onto the baking trays, allowing space for spreading. Don’t flatten the balls!

Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuits are dark golden brown. Remove the biscuits from the oven and cool on the trays. The biscuits will firm up as they cool. Now remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight tin. They keep well for a few days.

Beef and Tomato Handpies + Sundried Tomato and Feta Handpies

I made these originally as pasties, but really, they are little pastries that you fit in your hand. So handpies they have become!

They’re pretty easy to make, using bought puff pastry. But you really need to get the all butter pastry.

Beef and Tomato Handpies

The beef version uses a beef casserole I cook a lot. It’s easy too, but does require a long slow cooking time. The sundried tomato and feta version is simple as the filling doesn’t need cooking.

The filling was some slow cooked beef cheeks, cooked in Pedro Ximinez sherry. I added in a chopped fresh tomato and and handful of chopped sundried tomatoes. I reduced the tomatoes with the cooked beef until the mixture was thick enough to be used a pastie filling.

Recipe for the beef cheeks follows.

For a dozen pies, you would need about 1/3 of the recipe quantity. The rest is great served with mashed potato or pasta, root vegetables or green salad.

Ingredients 

1.5 kg  beef cheeks
125 ml  olive oil
3 carrots, roughly chopped
1 garlicky bulb, halved
1 brown onion, sliced
500 ml  Pedro Ximenez sherry or any other sweet sherry
500 ml  red wine
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C or even lower if your oven is hot (like mine).

Trim the beef cheeks to neaten them up and remove any sinew and silver skin. Season well.

Heat half the olive oil in a large heavy-based baking dish over high heat. Brown the beef cheeks for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden, then remove from the pan.

Add the remaining olive oil, then add the carrot, garlic and onion and sauté over high heat for 12-15 minutes, or until well browned. Stir in the sherry, wine, bay leaves, thyme, sea salt and 500 ml water.

Reduce the heat and add the beef cheeks.  Cover and place in the oven to cook for 3-4 hours, or until the cheeks are beginning to fall apart.

The sauce from the beef cheeks should by now be reduced and glaze-like. If it needs further reducing, remove the cheeks from the baking dish, cover with foil to keep them warm and simmer the sauce over high heat on the stove top until nicely reduced.

Increase the oven to 190 degrees C. Take 3 puff pastry sheets, and using a plate as a template, cut out 12  20cm circles; you may have to gather up the trimmings and re-roll them to get all your circles. Don’t worry if you don’t get 12; just get as many as you can from the pastry sheets.

Spoon the stew on to one half of each circle. Brush the pastry edges with water, fold the other half of the pastry over the filling to form a half-moon shape and crimp well to seal.

Place the pies on a lightly oiled baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Eat the pies warm or cold.

Sundried Tomato and Feta Handpies

Simply chopped sundried tomatoes and crumble some soft feta. Add a sprinkling of fresh herbs like coriander or thyme to taste.

The quantities are up to you – I used 6 sundried tomatoes and 3 small pieces of feta to make 2 large pasties from 1 pastry sheet.

Spoon the filling on to one half of each circle. Brush the pastry edges with water, fold the other half of the pastry over the filling to form a half-moon shape and crimp to seal. These pies may open during cooking, but as the filling isn’t liquid, they stay intact.

Place the handpies on a lightly oiled baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. These ones are best eaten cold.

Stuffed Chokos

In Australia, we have a love/hate relationship with the humble choko. To be more precise, there’s probably more of a “hate” thing going on!

The choko, or chayote, a native of South America, is a plant belonging to the gourd family. Chayote was one of several foods introduced to Europe by the Spanish explorers.

It’s the subject of many jokes here, some based on its “bland” flavour and others because last century it grew riotously in backyards over septic tanks and outdoor dunnies!

One of the wonderful exercise physiologists at my gym has a problem: what to do with a huge crop of chokos growing over his fence. I decided to take up the challenge and devise a tasty recipe for his chokos.

This is a versatile and easy way to cook chokos and can be made into your own dish depending on your choice of fillings.

The basic idea is to fry some ingredients and stuff these into choko halves which have been boiled in salted water to an (almost) cooked state. The stuffed chokos with some grated Parmesan are baked in the oven till the chokos are soft and the filling bubbling.

The recipe is for one choko – double, triple or quadruple the recipe depending on the number of chokos you are stuffing.

Ingredients

1 choko, halved

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon olive oil + a glug

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder or paste, or to taste

1/2 cup ham or 2 rashers of bacon, chopped into small pieces

1/2 cup sweet corn kernels

1 slice of sourdough bread or similar

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Method

Place the choko halves in a big saucepan in the stovetop and cover with water. Add the salt and bring to the boil. Cook on a medium to high heat till the chokos are softened but not completely cooked, about 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and strain. Pat the choko halves dry with paper towel.

While the chokos are cooking, make the filling. Heat a frying pan over medium heat on the stovetop and add the olive oil. Fry the garlic and onion pieces till brown, making sure they don’t burn.

Add the chilli powder or paste and cook, stirring, for another minute.

Add the ham or bacon pieces, stir, and fry till they are just crisp. Add the corn kernels and stir into the mixture. Cook for a couple of minutes.

Add a smell glug of olive oil and add a slice of sourdough bread torn into little pieces. Cook until the bread pieces are just crisp.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C or 180 degrees C fan.

To stuff the choko, place each half in a baking dish and sprinkle the inside of both halves liberally with sea salt and black pepper. Spoon the filling into both halves. Top each half with the grated Parmesan cheese.

Place the baking dish in the oven and cook for 20 minutes to half an hour until the choko halves are soft to the touch, the filling is bubbling and the cheese topping is brown.

Serve on their own or with a salad.

You could use almost any filling you like – leave out the ham/ bacon for a vegetarian dish and add beans or lentils, or add other vegetables apart from corn like tomatoes, celery or zucchini. You probably need the onion or garlic for flavour. And add a whole lot more of any kind of cheese for “ cheesy” chokos!

Persian Love Cake – Lemon and Rose

I’ve always been fascinated with Middle Eastern cooking, and over the years I’ve built up a repertoire of favourite recipes. At first I was guided by cooking luminaries such as Claudia Rosen – her orange almond cake is cafe legend the world over – and the highly knowledgeable Elizabeth David.

And latterly, like so many people with a passion for good food, I have lapped up everything the wonderful Yotam Ottlenghi has said and written about Middle Eastern cooking, particularly the cooking of Israel and Palestine, where he developed his unique take on flavour.

This recipe is loosely a Persian Love Cake – I got a lot of inspiration from Turkish cooking too, in particular the recipes of Sevtap Yuce. My cake features lemon, rosewater and almonds as the principal flavours.

This cake is quite big – it’s essentially a sharing, celebration cake. You could scale it down if you wanted, or make 2 smaller cakes from the mixture.

Ingredients

150g butter

330g caster sugar

zest of 1 1/2 lemon

6 large free-range eggs

300g plain flour

165g ground almonds *

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of sea salt

1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

300g Greek yoghurt

3 tablespoons rosewater

*If you like your almonds to be a little crunchy, instead of using ground almonds, try pulsing flaked or slivered almonds in a food processor until they are ground but still have a bit of texture.

Syrup

125g caster sugar

125g water

Juice of a lemon

1-2 tablespoons rosewater

To serve – any of these are great!

1-2 tablespoons whole pistachios

Cardamom pistachio sugar**

Edible dried rose petals

Crystallised rose petals

Glacé fruit as decoration

** Here in Australia I use Cardamom Pistachio Sugar made by Gewürzhaus. Hopefully there will be other brands available where you live.

Method

Preheat the oven to 160°C, non fan forced. Carefully butter a 24cm springform cake tin.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing carefully after each addition to make sure the mixture doesn’t curdle. Add a dessertspoon of flour 3 times each time you’ve added 2 eggs. This will help stabilise the mixture and stop it curdling.

Sift the rest of the dry ingredients – it’s important to do this to give this rather dense cake some aeration.

Fold the sifted dry ingredients into the mixture.

Stir in the yoghurt and rosewater. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 – 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. If you’re worried about the cake browning too much, after half an hour or so, you can place a piece of foil over the top of the cake.

Once cooked, remove the cake from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the tin.

Remove the ring of springform tin, then remove the cake from its base.

Place on a serving plate.

For the syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon juice, and bring to the boil, and cook for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add the rosewater. Cool the syrup to room temperature.

Pierce the cake all over with a skewer, and spoon the cool syrup over the hot cake. Leave at room temperature so that the syrup can soak into the cake.

Scatter any of the following over the syrupy cake – whole pistachios, cardamom pistachio sugar, edible dried rose petals, crystallised rose petals or glacé fruit.

Serve the cake at room temperature, with a dollop of thick cream or Greek yoghurt.

Teriyaki Eggplant – 5 Ingredients Jamie Oliver

Here’s a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients that I posted when the book first came out. People seem to like the recipe as it’s pretty simple, with just a few ingredients.

It’s a good lunch or supper dish and great if you’re looking for “lighter” options in your diet!

The original recipe is called “Sticky Teriyaki Aubergine” in Jamie’s 5 Ingredients.

I made one tiny addition to the ingredients – the sticky sauce was quite strong , so I added a little brown sugar. This worked a treat and I think gave the sauce more of an Asian sweet/salty taste.

Ingredients

1 large eggplant (aubergine)
4 spring onions
1 fresh red chilli
20g unsalted peanuts + a few extra for scattering
1 tbls olive oil
2 tbls teriyaki sauce
1 tsp brown sugar (optional – my addition)

Method

Put a 26cm non-stick frying pan on a high heat and pour in 250mls of water.

Halve the eggplant lengthways, quickly slash the skin of each half a few times and place skin side up in the pan, then season with sea salt and black pepper.

Cover and cook for l0 minutes, or until it boils dry and begins to sizzle (listen for the change in sound).

Meanwhile, trim the spring onions. Cut the whites into 3cm lengths at an angle and put aside.

Deseed the chilli and finely slice Iengthways with the green part of the spring onions. Place both in a bowl of ice-cold water and put aside to crisp up.

When the eggplant starts to sizzle, add l tablespoon of olive oil, the white spring onions and the peanuts to the pan, stirring regularly.

After 2 minutes, add a splash of water, drizzle in the teriyaki, stir in the brown sugar and reduce to a medium heat.

Turn the eggplant, jiggle the pan and let it get sticky for a few minutes, then serve sprinkled with the drained green spring onions and chilli and a few peanuts scattered over the dish.

Sourdough Hybrid Hot Cross Buns

I love Easter and all the baking opportunities it provides. There are so many traditional recipes with strong cultural or religious origins, and I’m as fascinated with the history of the recipes as much as with the delicious pastries and bakes themselves.

But hot cross buns are my favourite. As a bread baker I guess this is to be expected! I always make them at Easter, having a go at a different recipe each year. But in 2021 I decided to develop my own version. I have had so much experience baking with sourdough recently that I thought I could use some of that know how in a hot cross bun recipe. So this recipe is a hybrid – it uses both dry yeast and some sourdough starter. The result are well risen, light and flavourful buns.

The recipe makes 16 – but if you only want to bake 12, I have included the quantities to bake a dozen – see below.

For the observant readers who have counted 15 buns in the photos, I actually managed to get 17 buns from the dough! So I decided to bake two buns on another tray.

Ingredients

Buns

250g mix of sultanas and raisins

40mls Pedro Ximinez or port or muscat

625g strong flour

7g dried yeast

12g salt

125g sourdough starter

Zest of 1/2 an orange

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

I teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger and cloves

50g brown sugar

30g golden syrup

2 medium free-range eggs, well beaten

60g unsalted butter, in small pieces

200g full fat milk at room temperature

150g apple juice

50g candied orange peel

Cross

75g flour

75g water

3 teaspoons caster sugar

Glaze

50g caster sugar

50g golden syrup

100g water

Method

Soak the raisins and sultanas in the Pedro Ximinez or port or muscat for up to 3 hours to plump up the fruit.

Starting with the flour, add all the other ingredients (except dried fruit and candied orange peel) to a large bowl. Just make sure the yeast is on one side of the bowl and salt on the other.

Mix everything roughly together using a wooden spoon, just to amalgamate the ingredients. Leave to rest for 20 minutes.

Using the dough hook of an electric mixer, knead on low speed for 10 minutes until the dough is soft, shiny and passes the windowpane test. This dough is initially quite wet, so it will take 10 minutes kneading to bring it to that lovely elastic consistency you are looking for.

Add the sultanas, raisins and any residual alcohol that hasn’t soaked into the fruit, and the candied orange peel. Mix for about a minute on low to distribute the fruit evenly through the dough.

Remove the bowl from the machine and cover with a plastic bag or tea towel. Leave to prove in a warm place for 2 hours.

The dough should have doubled in size. Carefully remove the risen dough from the bowl and place on a board or bench top which has been lightly floured. Putting a little more flour on your hands to stop the dough from sticking, flatten the dough to a rough rectangle, and fold in half lengthways. Cut in two and roll each half into a sausage.

You should get 16 hot cross buns from the mixture. Take one sausage and divide into two, then divide each into 4 pieces.

To shape your buns, take one piece and roll into a ball, and with your cupped hand over the top of the ball, keep rolling on the board or bench top till you feel the dough tightening and developing a nice ball shape.

Repeat with remaining balls. Do the same thing with the other sausage.

Place the 16 balls – now buns – onto a large baking tray lined with baking paper.

Cover with a large plastic bag or a tea towel and leave to prove again. I prove this second time in the fridge overnight. You can also prove at room temperature for an hour or more until the buns have grown a little in size. (They don’t get huge – this happens in the oven.)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C fan forced or 190 degrees C non fan for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the crosses by mixing the flour, water and sugar in small bowl. Use a bit of judgement here – you want a paste that is not too runny, but not so stiff that it can’t be piped. So add/subtract flour and water to get the right consistency. Fill a piping bag or a zip lock bag that you can cut the corner off with the cross mixture, and pipe lines across each row of buns, then pipe another set of lines at right angles to the first set to make the crosses.

If you’re in any doubt how to do this, YouTube has how-to videos!

Put the tray into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the buns are a dark golden brown.

As you can see from the colour of the buns in the photos, my buns are a deep burnished colour. But they are soft and moist inside!

While the buns are baking, make the glaze. Put the caster sugar, golden syrup and water into a small saucepan and heat gently on the stovetop stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes until the glaze has thickened slightly.

Once the buns are cooked, remove from the oven. Brush the warm syrup over the warm buns, making sure you brush the sides as well.

When the buns have cooled slightly, eat with lashings of good quality butter. The next day, split and toast and serve with, of course, more butter!

Hot cross buns freeze well too, so make a pile that you can store in the freezer and reheat as necessary.

NB Reheat in the oven, the buns don’t do well in the microwave.

Quantities for 12 hot cross buns

(Some quantities stay the same as it doesn’t make a huge difference to alter these quantities).

200g mix of sultanas and raisins

40mls Pedro Ximinez or port or muscat

450g strong flour

7g dried yeast

10g salt

100g sourdough starter

Zest of 1/2 an orange

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

I teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger and cloves

40g brown sugar

20g golden syrup

2 medium free-range eggs, well beaten

50g unsalted butter, in small pieces

150g full fat milk at room temperature

100g apple juice

50g candied orange peel

Cross

75g flour

75g water

3 teaspoons caster sugar

Glaze

50g caster sugar

50g golden syrup

100g water

Easter Simnel Cake

Simnel cake is traditionally made for Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent. Mothering Sunday in the UK is what we call Mother’s Day here in Australia, except we mark this day in May. A bit confusing!

I’ve been very interested in the Simnel cake, what it’s made of and its history. It’s a light fruitcake with two layers of marzipan, one layer baked in the centre of the cake, and one layer placed on top of the cake. The cake is adorned with eleven balls of marzipan, representing Jesus’ Apostles, minus Judas Iscariot. This last reference reminds us that this is an Easter cake, and can also be eaten during the Easter period and on Easter Day.

So I decided to make a Simnel cake for Mothering Sunday this Easter, Sunday 14 March. I have read many recipes for the cake, and eventually decided to adapt a recipe from the Hairy Bikers. I made a few changes to create my version of the cake. Whatever way you look at it, there are not that many ways you can make a Simnel cake – actually there is pretty much only the one basic recipe with a few adaptations! The link to the Hairy Bikers original recipe is here.

My version is baked in a slightly bigger tin than most recipes specify. I wanted a cake with a bigger diameter to serve more people. I used quite a lot of marzipan in order to get good coverage on the cake. I also went with blow torching the cake rather then putting it under a grill, as this was so much easier and you can control the heat source.

Ingredients

Marzipan

335 icing sugar

260g caster sugar

525g ground almonds

3 large free-range eggs

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons apricot jam (to stick the marzipan onto the cake)

Fruit cake

Juice and zest of an orange

Juice and zest of a lemon

500g sultanas, raisins and currants, in any mix you prefer

150g glacé cherries

225g self-raising flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg, ginger, allspice – any or all of these are fine, use what you prefer

3 large free-range eggs

175g soft butter

175g brown sugar

Method

Make the marzipan first, as this needs to rest for an hour or so before it goes into the cake.

Sift the icing sugar and caster sugar into a large bowl, and then mix through the ground almonds.

Beat the eggs with the almond extract and lemon juice in a separate bowl. Stir into the dry ingredients with a large spoon or spatula to make a rough dough. Use your hands to continue to turn the mixture into a dough that is able to be rolled out.

Put some icing sugar onto a work surface – bench top or ideally a large wooden board. Knead the marzipan for a couple of minutes until it’s a smooth dough.

Put the marzipan dough into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave for at least an hour, preferably two, to allow the ground almonds to swell and absorb some of the moisture from the eggs.

For the cake, put the orange and the lemon juice in a small saucepan and add the dried fruit and cherries. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat and heat for two minutes, stirring until the liquid disappears. Be careful not to burn the fruit by cooking it dry. Remove from the heat and leave to completely cool. Putting the fruit into a bowl and sticking it in the fridge can speed things up if you’re short on time.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C non fan forced, or 140 degrees fan forced.

Grease a 22cm spring form pan and line the base with two layers of baking paper.

Put the flour and spices in a large bowl. Whisk the eggs in a smaller bowl.

Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer such as a KitchenAid until light and fluffy and well mixed. Make sure all the mixture, even at the bottom of the bowl, is well incorporated.

Add the whisked eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. To stop the mixture curdling – this can easily happen when adding eggs to butter and sugar – mix in a tablespoon of flour after each egg addition.

Gently fold in the flour to the rest of the mixture by hand. Stir in the dried fruit and the orange and lemon zest. Spoon half of the mixture into the springform tin, trying to get a smooth surface.

Working with marzipan. Divide the marzipan into three equal balls. Weighing them is probably the best way to do this. Wrap two of the balls in plastic wrap to prevent them drying out.

Place a large length of baking paper on your work surface and dust with icing sugar. Put the remaining ball ono the baking paper and cover with another length. Roll the ball into a circle that’s bigger than the springform tin. You can check this by putting the cake tin on top of the rolled marzipan and making sure the marzipan is 1-2 cms bigger than the tin.

Now peel the top layer of baking paper off the marzipan and put the marzipan circle carefully on top of the cake mixture in the tin, then peel off the remaining base paper.

Put the rest of the cake mixture on top of the marzipan and smooth the surface.

Place the springform tin into the preheated oven and bake for about approximately 1 hour 30 minutes, or until the cake is golden-brown, and a skewer inserted into,the cake comes out clean. If the cake is browning quickly but is obviously not cooked, cover the top with some aluminium foil.

Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave it to cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Then remove from the tin, peel off the lining paper, put the cake on a wire rack and leave to completely cool.

Marzipan topping. This cake is best decorated using the bottom of the cake as its flatter. Turn the cake upside down and put onto a plate or board to allow you to decorate.

Place a length of baking paper onto the work surface with more icing sugar. Put one of the marzipan balls onto the paper and cover with another piece of baking paper. As before, roll the ball into a circle that’s bigger than the springform tin. You can check this by putting the cake tin on top of the rolled marzipan and making sure the marzipan is 1-2 cms bigger than the tin.

Heat the apricot jam in a microwave on low, or in a small saucepan on low heat for a couple of minutes.

Brush the surface of the cake with the warm jam and cover with the marzipan circle. The circle should just hang over the edge of the cake. Press the marzipan gently onto the cake, easing out any lumps. You can neaten up any overhang that’s too long with a sharp knife.

Now take the remaining marzipan and roll it into eleven balls to represent the Apostles. Weigh the balls to make them uniform – 20g for small balls or 25g for bigger ones. In either case you will have marzipan left over – always welcome as a sweet treat.

Dip each ball into the warmed apricot jam. Position them round the outside of the cake.

Now for the fun part – get out your cook’s blowtorch and lightly scorch the marzipan topping and balls! Be careful not to overdo it. If you haven’t got a blowtorch, put the cake under the grill for a couple of minutes until scorched but not burnt.

Place the cake onto a serving plate or board. Put a yellow ribbon – traditional – around the cake. I went for a green ribbon, with its associations of the renewal of life, appropriate for the Easter season.

Fruit Mince Crumble Slice


This is a recipe for an Aussie crumble slice, or traybake if you’re making it in the UK!  The filling is fruit mince, from a jar of beautiful dried fruit and spices preserved in brandy that I was using over Christmas.

If you don’t have any on hand – and I guess if it’s not Christmas you may not – just soak 150g of sultanas and raisins in two tablespoons of brandy for a few hours or over night, with a 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg. 

The basic slice is pretty versatile, so you could even substitute some berries for the fruit mince too.

Ingredients 

Shortbread base

250g softened butter

100g raw sugar or golden caster sugar

100g self raising flour

50g plain flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling

150g or to taste of homemade or good quality bought fruit mince

Crumble topping

1/4 of the shortbread mix

50g plain flour

Method

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C fan forced, 180 degrees C non fan forced.

In a food processor, cream the butter and sugar and vanilla extract, just until well mixed. You’re not looking for a fluffy creamed mixture. Pulse in the flour and mix until incorporated into the butter/sugar mixture.

Spread 3/4 of the shortbread mix in a rectangular baking tin. I used 9” x 13” tin. I   Leave the remaining 1/4 in the food processor. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes until the base has risen slightly and is a pale golden colour. It will still be very soft.

Remove from the oven and place spoonfuls of the fruit mince on top, spreading evenly and being careful not to squash the base too much.

For the crumble, to the remaining 1/4 shortbread mix in the food processor, add 50g plain flour. Pulse a few times to just incorporate the flour. Use your judgement about the flour. You may need to add a little more after you’ve done pulsing in order to get a good crumble consistency.

Scatter the crumble in lumps over the top of the fruit mince.

Return to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the crumble topping is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin completely before cutting into slices.

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